For our family, summer starts at Katimbeaux (“cat-tim-bo”). It’s up a steep road, and if you pass the yellow house, you’ve gone too far. When you turn up the driveway, there’s a big meadow, and a little pond, surrounded by woods, backing cozily up to the mountain.
Everyone just shows up to Katimbeaux. No emails go out, no website gets checked. About 80 people just end up there, with food and tents, a guitar or two, and dogs. There’s a special rule, that once you are invited to Katimbeaux, you are always welcome back. Since it’s a rule, there’s also a single exception, in the case of the one person who drank way too much and started a lot of fights.
There are a lot of traditions that go along with this weekend. It’s a weekend where a pack of kids and adults who don’t see each other but once a year come together and play. Each year gets marked with a special moment. One year the special moment was a weather balloon, inflated with helium. A loop under the balloon was a foothold, and the anchored balloon lifted small children. One year, we greased watermelons and played a sort of water polo in the pond. That was when the pond was deeper, and probably had fewer frogs. A while ago, when the film maker was younger and had no kids, there were movies made. Indiana Jones sorts of movies, and my sister was a movie star. One year, we gathered rocks from fallen walls, took mud from the pond, and made pizza ovens.
This year, there was Quidditch. Six rings stood facing each other from two sides of a field, and a throng of kids (a scrum?) ran back and forth to get the balls through them. Two kids in bright yellow headbands were the snitches, and they took off, running through the meadow and cabin and woods to hide from the Seekers. When Quidditch ended, stomp rockets came out, and three teams competed to see who could get their missiles through the rings.
Every year, at night, kids sit in a circle and play Mafia, with a secret sheriff and doctor, eliminating the probable bad guys with a vote. They run through the field in the dark to play Manhunt, a form of hide and go seek that seems so much more fun because, hey, it’s dark out!
Every year, there will be a game of poker. Peter usually wins, it seems. He brings the cards and chips, I think, so that makes sense.
Every year, we celebrate the dogs’ birthday, with Amy’s famous chocolate cake. There’s singing for folks who don’t play poker, and there’s always a campfire. When Kevin comes, there’s a small army of volunteers who bring larger and larger fallen logs out of the woods, and the campfire is more of a bonfire. We sit farther and farther back, watching sparks spiral up to the sky.
Every year, most of the group heads to the fields of a nearby school. A longstanding agreement means there are games of soccer and softball and frisbee through at least one afternoon, and the school gets a small donation for their coffers.
Every year, we get together with family and friends to reconnect, celebrate joys together, and take a deep breath before starting into summer. Katimbeaux has meant the start of summer for more than 20 years for me. We hope your summer starts with joy and continues with joy throughout.